Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bones: The End in the Beginning

I'll generally not begrudge a show for taking stylistic risks and changing up its format from time to time, because risk-taking is the sort of thing that should be encouraged. But the Bones season finale, "The End in the Beginning," written by creator Hart Hanson and directed by Ian Toynton, was something of a disaster.

It was a dream episode, apparently taking place in Booth's mind as he lay in a coma after his brain surgery. The lab became The Lab, a nightclub owned by Booth and Brennan, who were married, while the other cast members took on various roles within the club. Despite being a dream sequence, there was still a murder mystery, involving the killing of...someone. Cam and Jared, Booth's brother, played FBI agents investigating the murder, which Booth and Brennan eventually solved. Jared was the killer, not that it matters. In between there were some lame attempts at meta-humor and Hodgins wrote a book and Sweets sang a pretty good song and Motley Crue sang a pretty bad song.

Oh, and, OMG, Booth and Bones totally did it. Except they didn't, because, you know, it was a dream, and the imaginary sex was just designed to titillate shippers who read spoilers. And then Booth woke up and was all like, "What a weird dream." And then he was all like, "Hey, who are you?" when Bones tried to talk to him. Because he had amnesia. Because Hart Hanson always has to end his seasons in the stupidest way possible.

"The End in the Beginning" is most directly comparable to "Restless," the fourth season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are people who really dislike that episode, but those people are wrong, as "Restless" is one of the most brilliant pieces of television ever created. It's smart and funny. It brings the themes of the show to forefront. It deepens the characterization. And it wraps up the fourth season and sets up the fifth in a creative and unexpected way.

But "The End in the Beginning" is very much not "Restless." It is less smart and funny than odd and baffling. While it does bring the themes of the show to the forefront, insomuch as it focuses on the nature of Bones and Booth's relationship and the way it revolves around violence, it doesn't touch the breadth of the themes "Restless" expounded upon. In fairness, though, Bones doesn't have the same thematic breadth as Buffy anyway, so I think we can give them that one.

But by this point, Hanson and company should realize that people watch their show for the character interaction, not for the simplistic themes or uninteresting mysteries. And characterization is really where the episode falls apart, as the alternate characterizations in the episode were by and large random and pointless. What does it tell us, for example, that Cam played the role of detective in Booth's dream? And what does it tell us Zack found the gun? And what does it tell us that Hodgins was writing a noirish mystery novel? The answer to all of those questions is, unfortunately, nothing. Or at least nothing that's not superficial and trivial.

And that's the biggest reason why the episode was so lame. It's not that it was a bad idea. It's just that it's the kind of idea that's difficult to do well. And "The End in the Beginning" proved it.

The amnesia thing, though? Yeah, that was just a bad idea.

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